Holmenkollen Saturday – an eyewitness account
For those of us who were not at Holmenkollen we bring an eyewitness account of the course of events following the infamous Holmenkollen drunken feast on Saturday last weekend. Let’s hope there will be a smoother operation during the biathlon events this week.
As those us who have followed the debate in the aftermath of the scandal that occurred last week at Holmenkollen – where the involved parties, arranger, police and Oslo metro (Sporveien) have been busy “evaluating” and blaming each other for what happened – have noted is that they simply were inadequately prepared. What has lacked from the narrative is an eyewitness account.
How it started
One way in and out for pedestrian spectators, we were herded and penned like cattle to allow spectators in cars to leave first. The one small train servicing the site was out of action and there was no contingency plan to bring tens of thousands of people off the mountain.
“You must walk”, they said. So infants, the elderly and disabled all took to the treacherously icy sidewalks with their more able friends and family to walk the 2 hour steep night-time descent to the town centre.
A single policeman barked aggressive instructions in Norwegian to the international audience who stood looking at him with no idea what he was saying. No-one advised us where to go and no-one cared. We picked each other up when we slipped and fell over (frequently) on the icy pathways. People had already fallen on the site throughout the day. It’s a dangerous place.
Swept away by the crowd, I didn’t see what happened to the three ladies struggling to control the wheelchair as they, too, made their way down the hill. I hope they got down ok.
With no help from local people either, eventually someone in the crowd found another train-line on their smartphone that was closer than the town centre and we headed off to Holmen station. The train at that station was 30 minutes late. By then it was past 2100hrs and sub-zero temperatures. As we stood on the platform over an hour after we left the arena, we saw the Holmenkollen train was moving again. What irony.
We had been lucky enough to get out, but scores of very frustrated people started fighting behind us at the site just to get free. The authorities blamed alcohol. A cover-up. Any sensible review would record the inadequacy of an infrastructure to support a large scale event, the bottleneck exit where people were in danger of being trampled and the subsequent failure of adequate services to respond to and support the volume of people as the key causes of this debacle.
I could tell you so much more that needs to be improved on the site itself for public safety alone. And by the way, this post was blocked on the Oslo trip advisor site. The truth is deemed inappropriate content, apparently. Sweep it under the carpet instead of making a positive difference. I didn’t think Norway was like that. I stand corrected.